Credit the slow-burn style pioneered by such HBO triumphs as The Sopranos and The Wire for the delectable range of sensuous pleasures on offer from the second season of the network’s post-Katrina New Orleans drama Treme. Creators David Simon and Eric Overmyer take full advantage of the trusting relationship they’ve built with viewers, who can settle in and let the series’ sprawling story strands waft over them without worrying about where they’re going. It’s the rare show that gets better the more it stews in its own juices.
That’s thanks to the array of feelings and experiences in which it basks — music, food, sex, love, brutality, recovery, redemption. It all comes together through the nuanced writing and acting, with lifelike characters who make you forget they’re being played by Oscar winner Melissa Leo or CSI: Miami‘s Khandi Alexander. They’re just people whose lives were twisted in whole new directions by one disastrous day in 2005, and we simply want to know what happens to each one of them.
The new season finds the world — and even New Orleans’ residents — moving on from the devastation. It’s the time in the life cycle of a tragic event when art shows chronicling the aftermath are opening to white-wine-and-string-quartet receptions and contractors are making a killing on rebuilding efforts. English professor-turned-rabble-rouser Creighton Bernette (John Goodman), the first season’s symbolic center, committed suicide in the ? second-to-last episode, and his wife and daughter are among the few still lingering in Katrina’s wreckage looking for answers. Leo, as his lawyer wife, is poking around a mysterious hurricane-related death; his teenage daughter, a wonderfully sullen India Ennenga, is burning up YouTube with her political rants.
Everyone else is just trying to get on with life, some succeeding, like violinist Annie (Lucia Micarelli), who’s now touring with established bands and ensconced in a delightful-to-watch dance of early love with Steve Zahn’s flaky DJ, Davis. Others are enduring terrifying setbacks, like Alexander’s stubborn tavern owner, whose refusal to leave the city comes with a grave price. Most are flailing in perpetual uncertainty, still dazed by where Katrina has landed them. No one embodies this better than Kim Dickens’ failed restaurateur, who has fled to New York only to suffer the indignities of working for a tyrant of a head chef at an upscale eatery. But when he gently shows her how to cook fish to perfection, there’s ? a hint of hope for her, as there’s hope for all of the characters — and New Orleans — in their twin salvations of music and food. We’re just lucky we get to watch. A